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The dark side? Fun in the workplace and unwanted sexual attention

Michael J. Tews (School of Hospitality Management, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Kathryn Stafford (Department of Human Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA)
Phillip M. Jolly (School of Hospitality Management, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 3 September 2019

Issue publication date: 16 September 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine whether fun in the workplace inadvertently leads to greater incidences of unwanted sexual attention. Specifically, this research examined the relationship between three dimensions of fun and unwanted sexual attention – fun activities, coworker socializing and manager support for fun.

Design/methodology/approach

Multiple regression was used to analyze survey data from three Qualtrics business panels.

Findings

Fun activities were related to greater incidences of unwanted sexual attention, while manager support for fun was related to fewer instances. With respect to fun activities, mandatory attendance and holding the activities on nights and weekends were associated with further increased unwanted sexual attention. The presence of non-employees during activities was associated with fewer incidences.

Research limitations/implications

The data on fun in the workplace and unwanted sexual attention were obtained at one point in time. Future research would be valuable that obtains data collected at multiple points in time to more fully substantiate cause-and-effect relationships.

Practical implications

Employers may seek to foster a climate in which managers encourage employees to have fun on the job as well as one that explicitly focuses on preventing sexual harassment. Curbing unwanted sexual attention during fun activities may be facilitated by involving non-employees, refraining from holding activities at night and on weekends and keeping employee participation voluntary.

Originality/value

From the perspective of fun in the workplace, this research has demonstrated fun activities may have unintended, adverse consequences. From the perspective of sexual harassment, this research has identified antecedents not typically be considered to be contributing factors of unwanted sexual attention.

Keywords

Citation

Tews, M.J., Stafford, K. and Jolly, P.M. (2019), "The dark side? Fun in the workplace and unwanted sexual attention", Employee Relations, Vol. 41 No. 6, pp. 1162-1182. https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-06-2018-0165

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited